Why ChatGPT will eat Low Code's lunch

Screen showing code
(Image credit: Shutterstock / DaLiu)

Having read through an array of articles about ChatGPT in recent months, it would seem that most people have one of the following, opposing two views; ChatGPT is either the technological breakthrough that will revolutionize how we do absolutely everything on this planet, or it is the Pandora’s Box that, once opened, will unleash a wave of change that will be impossible to stop and could ultimately lead to our obsolescence and eventual downfall. Clearly there’s no sitting on the fence when it comes to ChatGPT.

At risk of bringing some nuance to the table, there are some legitimate concerns which are worth exploring, such as ChatGPT’s potential to make certain jobs obsolete, particularly software development and creative jobs. Yet it’s worth remembering that conversations about job losses are as old as technology itself. Every new “thing” goes through the same cycle; it starts with intrigue and interest, followed by fear and resentment, until eventually being accepted and embraced as the natural way of doing things now.

While we are still firmly in the hype cycle when it comes to ChatGPT and other natural language AIs, there are some real-world benefits from the technology right now. One of these is its potential to achieve exactly what Low Code has been attempting for years; the democratization of software development.

Is this really a creative AI?

Fear over jobs could be seen as a fair response to a technology with the potential to be as ground-breaking as ChatGPT. But this fear is misplaced because it focuses on the wrong outcome. The question should be less about how ChatGPT will replace jobs, but how it will help existing jobs. And not just any jobs; for the first time, we are looking at a technology that can be creative. Unlike technologies of the past which typically automate or speed-up a repetitive process (manufacturing, logistics, transportation etc.), ChatGPT does something entirely new – enhancing the creativity of the user. While we can debate whether this is true creativity or not, ultimately if the outcome is the same, is it not still creative?

Think of how ChatGPT could help a software developer crack a particularly challenging piece of code, or how it could optimise existing code. It can also help developers be more creative by reducing the repetitive/boring part of their jobs so they can focus on the parts they love, leaving them more time to flex their creative muscles. In this instance, ChatGPT is just another spanner in the developer’s toolbox, like GitHub or Jira. Nothing to be scared of. Less Terminator, more R2-D2.

Romy Hughes

Romy Hughes is a Director at Brightman.

Delivering the Low Code promise

Going beyond the developer use case, ChatGPT has the ability to democratize coding itself by providing a way for non-coders to develop applications themselves – in much the same way that Low Code promises, but this time on steroids. This “democratization of IT” promises a new wave of innovation by enabling organizations to create new processes without the new to engage with IT at all. ChatGPT could achieve the same outcome as Low Code but in half the time.

Low code has long promised to democratize software development by providing a way for non-coders to develop applications themselves. While Low Code has already achieved some great things in the applications that have implemented it, the amount of change it can deliver is fundamentally held back by the choices made by the developer. The developer of the Low Code application must still choose which aspects of the application can be configured by the user (i.e. which bits are Low Code and which are not). Ultimately, the user still has no fundamental access to the underlying code. While this is intentional and has been one of Low Code’s strength (since users cannot damage the underlying code if they can’t access it), users are still beholden to developers to do anything significant or original. So it’s democracy, but with guard rails in place to ensure the public doesn’t vote for anything too outrageous.

ChatGPT has the potential to create a way for users to make far more significant changes to the applications they use, potentially enabling organizations to achieve far more than Low Code ever could, and in half the time. We just need to figure out where the guard rails need to go first.

Addressing the communication breakdown

The democratization of IT is great, but ChatGPT has the potential to deliver much more than better code. It has the potential to address one of the most fundamental challenges when it comes to delivering innovation and change to organizations.

Think about the most common reason for an IT project failure; it is rarely down to poor delivery or mismanagement (although these will naturally contribute). At the most fundamental level, most IT projects fail because they do not deliver the outcomes that users wanted. Why does this happen? It happens because users fail to convey exactly what they want, and IT fails to ask them the right questions to find out. The true requirements of the application get lost in translation because technical and non-technical people speak entirely different languages. There is a communication breakdown which ChatGPT could help to solve.

There is a gulf in every organization between technical and non-technical users i.e. between those who build IT, and the wider staff who use it. In a scenario where the objective is too often “lost in translation,” ChatGPT can be the interpreter. ChatGPT can bridge the gap because users won’t need technical skills to realize the changes they want.

Does ChatGPT have a business case in your organization?

How should the implementation of AI systems like ChatGPT into organizations be managed to ensure the best outcomes? What are the steps organizations need to take to manage this transition?

Hold your horses. Delivering change into an organisation is fraught with challenges and uncertainty. Like any project, it is important to start with the fundamentals of what you’re trying to achieve, not with the technology you want to use. NEVER choose the technology first. If you do that you’ll spend the entire project trying to find a reason to use it, whether it solves the problem or not. No matter how much you want to use ChatGPT, you must start by defining the outcomes you want to achieve and working backwards from there. How you achieve these outcomes is a technical decision which always comes much later.

If one of your questions is to enable change to happen faster and to be more adaptive to the needs of the company, then ChatGPT may well form part of the answer. Just remember to define the problem first, build the business case and then evaluate the various solutions to achieve those objectives. Don’t get carried by the hype.

Giving ChatGPT the space to fly

As this article has addressed, ChatGPT has the potential to be the bridge between technical and non-technical users in every organization. It has the potential to bridge the gulf between these radically different types of people in order to speed up change within the organization. But it is crucial for technologies like ChatGPT to sit within the domains where they will have the best chance to flourish. Like Low Code, ChatGPT often delivers its best results when put in the hands of non-technical users.

While ChatGPT was born in IT, it is time for its parents to give it the freedom to flourish. It needs to move out of the IT realm to reach its potential. The question is, is IT really ready to let go?

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Romy Hughes is a Director at Brightman, the business change specialist with expertise in Service Integration and Management (SIAM), business transformation and IT Service Management (ITSM and ITIL).